Clients should want to hear the truth: Meenakshi Menon

"Turbulent but exciting” is how Spatial Access’ founder and chairperson Meenakshi Menon describes the media audit company’s 10 year journey.

It’s a happy occasion – completion of a decade in business by Spatial Access.

Turbulent but exciting is how Meenakshi Menon describes the past 10 years

Menon recalls how a leading media company had sent notice to the company in its very first year and recently too, it got another “love letter” from a media agency. “This just goes on to show that some things never change,” she quips.

She goes on to observe that though the world around has changed, some media agencies are still stuck in a time warp. “Fortunately, many have broken out of the old mould. We started out in the face of resistance from many agencies but today, it is down. The highpoint for us is the way advertisers’ have stuck to their guns and brought us on board believing in the need for greater accountability and transparency.”

With over 30 years’ experience which started with Lintas, Menon started India’s first audit and advisory in marketing services in 2003, and ever since, there has been no looking back.

“Finance and procurement people love what we do. We have also earned the grudging respect of most media agencies – particularly those who believe in transparency. There are still a few who have problems with being audited by Spatial Access but this is more because of the extra income they make and not anything else,” she exults. 

A media veteran himself, IPG’s Shashi Sinha lauds Menon’s courage to take the path less trodden. “It is credible of her and her team to hang in there. It was the first home-grown auditing agency and that speaks volumes for it,” he says. 

It is credible of Meenakshi to start something like this and hang in there for so long, says Shashi Sinha

Over the years, Spatial Access has widened its reach to include all aspects of marketing investment, right from media to production and BTL to digital. The company launched its digital audit service two years ago.

“Advertisers are increasing their spends on digital but this is one area where most of the investment goes into improving agency profitability rather than delivering impact. The kind of margins made on digital are humongous. As a result, out of every rupee that the client spends on digital on an average, only 50 paise goes out to digital media. We need to separate the media costs from the costs of strategy and ideation. If we don’t, then our concern is that this too will go the way traditional media has - unless media cost transparency is mandated by publishers and media owners,” she says.

Menon agrees digital is the way forward but is quick to give mass media its due. “Mass media will continue to be the engine of growth but digital media will become more effective, more so for certain categories. Our business will reflect ground realities and continue to be path breaking and innovative with great dependence on technology,” she says.

Today, the company boasts of 150 clients across six countries, a staff of 40 full-timers with one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry, and a network that spans the entire Asia Pacific region.

About her clients, Menon says: “I don’t want to disclose client names in the public domain but would like to take this opportunity to thank Kansai Nerolac managing director HM Bharuka, who was the first client to sign us on in November 2003. Nerolac is still one of our clients and we owe a permanent debt to Mr Bharuka for supporting an idea and a concept even before it became a service.”

Apparently, the feeling is mutual. "Spatial Access’ expertise in the areas of planning and buying has helped us make informative and risk-free decisions that have optimised our budgets and brand campaigns. The team’s responsive nature has helped us stay cued into an ever-changing media environment, on issues affecting ad spends, media buying decisions and performance," says Kansai Nerolac marketing and sales (decorative) vice president Sukhpreet Singh.

Are there any regrets? Menon doesn’t have any and feels each drawback has been an opportunity in disguise. She says everyone who is part of the company knows they have a mission and not just another job.

Sam Blasara wishes Spatial Access 10 more years of success

What’s the future roadmap? The company is in the process of reinventing the entire service, to add the next level of complexity and sophistication. “We are working with technology partners to develop products and services that can be made available to 500 clients!” replies Menon adding: “Every marketer who wants to ‘understand and manage’ marketing investments is a potential client. We need to be able to offer something to every client, provided they want to hear the truth. Many clients would rather believe in fairy tales and this is something that needs to change. This is our mission for the next 10 years.”

Like Madison chairman and managing director Sam Balsara who wishes Menon and her team a glorious coming ten years, we too hope the next ten will be better and bigger for Spatial Access.

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